Archive for the ‘Packaging’ Category

How barcodes can help fight food fraud

October 7th, 2017
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Food ranks among the top five most valuable counterfeit markets

While it’s well-known by professionals in the food industry, many consumers are surprised to find out that food ranks in the top five most valuable counterfeit markets.

Fake food is such a problem worldwide that the growth of the global anti-counterfeiting market will outpace the overall market segment growth of the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries by roughly two to three times in the next five years, according to the Brand Protection and Product Traceability Market Research Report from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

And, North America alone will account for nearly half of the total growth in the global anti-counterfeit food packaging market.

The entire food supply chain requires new measures of safety to close the gaps when tracking, authenticating and locating products. These solutions will go far beyond the idea of a simple fix, creating added layers of supply chain security.

Within the layered approach to brand protection are overt technologies — barcodes, holograms, watermarks, embossing and etching — and covert technologies — taggants, UV, infrared and fluorescent inks, Smart technology and radio frequency identification (RFID).

While new technologies are in research and development, 1D barcodes continue to anchor track and trace technology.

The traditional 1D barcodes are used most often by three out of four companies for tracking incoming product from the source through delivery at the food manufacturing facility, to packaging. All the goods come in dated with lot codes that are scanned upon plant entry, throughout all internal phases and back out into the supply chain.

There will always be a need for human readable dates and markings. And consumers need to be able to easily read information on the label for so they know if the product they have is genuine.

The traditional 1D barcodes are used most often by three out of four companies for tracking incoming product from the source through delivery at the food manufacturing facility, to packaging.

All the goods come in dated with lot codes that are scanned upon plant entry, throughout all internal phases and back out into the supply chain.

However, while 1D barcodes remain dominant, 2D barcode usage growing is growing via QR codes that can hold pictures, videos and more. Three-dimensional codes are emerging but only offer a colored pattern 2D barcode. Smaller or even invisible barcode technology will expand as the push toward “uncluttered packaging” encourages clean-labeling, clear packaging and imperceptible embedded codes.

While smart labels/tags are growing in retail and inventory tracking, the perishable goods segment—like food—projects to grow at the highest rate (especially labels).

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Bringing sweets from dreams to reality at PACK EXPO

October 7th, 2017
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Exhibit held Sept. 25-27 at the Las Vegas Convention Center reflects continued growth in packaging sector.

Writing this column was not as easy as I hoped it would be.
Several of my BNP Media colleagues and I attended PACK EXPO, staged by PMMI at the Las Vegas Convention Center last week. More than 2,000 exhibitors displayed their processing and packaging capabilities and equipment for thousands of attendees from across the globe — attendees who undoubtedly hit the Strip to blow off steam after long days at the show.
Not surprisingly, I came back with a mountain of information to share, which I still plan to do. But as I write this, Las Vegas is reeling. Nearly 60 people are dead and more than 500 others were injured after a gunman on Sunday open fired at a musical festival from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay.
It’s hard to believe when a tragedy like this strikes, but this one was particularly jarring, knowing the BNP folks and thousands of other PACK EXPO attendees were in Vegas four or five days before the shooting. We were lucky, but sadly, many others weren’t.
My thoughts are with the victims, survivors and their families as they and Las Vegas pick up the pieces in the coming weeks. But, as we mourn and determine our next steps as a nation, we’ll soldier on. In that spirit, here’s more on PACK EXPO.
The U.S. packaging machinery market continues to grow, according to PMMI’s 2017 State of the Industry report.
Presenting the data at a media breakfast the first day of PACK EXPO, Jorge Izquierdo, PMMI v.p. of market development, said the market was expected to hit $9.8 billion in 2016, up 4.8 percent from 2015.
Domestic shipments of packaging machinery rose by 2.9 percent to $7.7 billion in 2016, while equipment exports dropped by 8.5 percent. Packaging equipment imports, however, grew by 12.7 percent, which Izquierdo attributed to a strong exchange rate. He said imports are expected to grow over the next few years, but the growth rate will likely slow.
The pharmaceuticals sector is forecast to grow the fastest of all sectors over the next five years, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6 percent. The food industry, which includes nutraceuticals, won’t be far behind, with a projected CAGR of 2.3 percent.
Izquierdo attributed the investment in food packaging to an “explosion of SKUs,” noting manufacturers often experience multiple changeovers a day.
“It completely changes how manufacturers produce those products,” he said.
More products and tighter schedules mean manufacturers need greater efficiency and flexibility. Bosch Packaging Technology hopes to deliver that with the Continline bar production system, currently in use by Toronto-based Riverside Natural Foods.
“Handling bars is a challenge,” said Bosch’s Josua Schwab, noting the material is often sticky and may contain allergens. The Contiline system — which features the WRF 600 Flex roller former, allowing for different bar widths — also offers toolless format changes and a hygienic design.
“The Bosch bar production and packaging system offers easy operation and cleaning as well as the right level of automation and format flexibility,” says Klaus Haebig, Bosch North American sales manager.
Sollich showed the Thermo-Flow 1050 KK cooling tunnel with PU-Covers in Gullwing design. The tunnel frame and base are made of stainless steel, while the Gullwing covers are manufactured from lightweight composite material. The tunnel, designed to reduce potential bacterial growth, can be easily wiped down.
Also on display was the Enromat M6 1050 CIP enrober, which features an automatic washing system for easy changeover cleaning, said Sollich North America’s Sean Burns.
“It’s very easy to clean and easy to verify that it’s clean,” he said.
Schubert North America, meanwhile, showed the Flowmodul, the new flow-wrapping component of its TLM line for the first time in the U.S. Five F4 robots placed biscuits into the Flowmodul’s product feeding system, which were then sealed into flowpacks.
Schubert also demonstrated its web-based platform, which allows for monitoring and documentation of machine data in a single-user interface. Collecting data in real time can help manufacturers predict equipment malfunctions and plan for downtime, Schubert’s Armin Klotz said.
Most of my experience over the last year has been with finished confections, so it was wonderful to get more exposure to the processing and packaging sides of the industry. I’m looking forward to learning more about the machines that bring our favorite sweets from dreams to reality.

Packaging ,

After Easter is before Christmas

July 29th, 2017
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Around the middle of the year hardly any consumers would think of Christmas, which inevitably always arrives far too quickly – understandable when temperatures exceed 30°C and the longing for cool ice cream is stronger than the yearning for chocolate that softly melts in your mouth. However, the confectionary industry and the associated packaging sector have long started preparing their production for advent and the festive season.

To make sure the wrapped Santa Clauses make it under the Christmas tree in time both highest machine availability and high-performance labelling technology is called for. Availability of merchandise is a make-or-break issue for one of the world’s biggest chocolate producers, Lindt & Sprüngli. The company therefore focuses on both automated processes with custom robots in part and high-output labelling technology at its plant in Aachen. Also of special importance to the Swiss chocolate producers is a comprehensive service concept with quick response times and defined maintenance intervals.

When Easter Bunny & Santa Claus are on Holiday

During the short summer break – i.e. when the Easter Bunny is allowed to go on holiday with Santa Claus for two to three weeks – the labelling machines are completely overhauled. This job is done in cooperation with Herma, the specialists in self-adhesive technology that have been in charge of labelling at the Aachen Lindt plant for more than 30 years now. Around Easter time several technicians from both plants are on site doing visual inspections of the devices – clamping and pressure rollers and peeling blades are extensively checked and any required spares are ordered and installed to ensure smooth operation.

Knowledge Transfer and Service in the Age of Industry 4.0

Each label has to be in the perfect place – on some lines this is ensured by up to three high-performance labellers: one for the price label, one for the closure and one for the advertising label. Furthermore, online support is part and parcel of corporate services in times of Industry 4.0. Know-how should not be proprietary but shared in such a way that the local operator at the factory can remedy minor incidents himself or is provided with instructions and support online for addressing certain issues.

A Quantum Leap in Technology

To the Operations Technology Manager at Lindt & Sprüngli in Aachen, Dirck Ley, the possibilities of Industry 4.0 are only the beginning. He wants labelling machines to issue messages on maintenance requirements automatically in future – online and via networks – and to re-order any required spares via the connected SAP system. He refers to this as ‘Maintenance 4.0’ and his idea is not too remote from what cutting-edge labelling machines will be able to deliver in terms of flexibility, operator-friendliness and connectivity in future.



Confectionery, Packaging ,

Challenges of the Coding Process for Bakery Items

June 17th, 2017
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Coding requirements for the baked goods sector can be quite diverse, because of the wide range of products that may be coded. As a result, all these requirements must be understood and considered before deciding on the right coding solution, the specialists from Linx explained.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the main challenges when coding food items, and how to overcome these.

The experts underlines that when it comes to food product coding, there are two main challenges: hygiene and code accuracy.

“Food manufacturing environments need to meet strict hygiene requirements. To meet these, it’s essential that your machinery can be washed, meaning a coder with an IP55 rating should be an essential requirement. However, many bakeries have the added challenge of dust or other particles such as flour in the air, which can cause problems if they enter equipment. The solution here is to choose a coder with an IP65 rating, which protects against dust ingress, and means your coding equipment will operate reliably in your production environment,” the experts say.

IPP 55 enclosure characteristics are: protection from dirt, dust, oil, and other non-corrosive material; complete protection from contact with enclosed equipment; protection from water, up to water projected by a nozzle against enclosure from any direction; available in aluminum, carbon steel, and stainless steel; available in wall-mounted, free standing, trough, and JIC box; engraving, silk-screening, or anodizing services available and custom with cutouts, insulation, hinges, latches, or locks.

For the IP65 or IP67 codes, the characteristics required are rated waterproof and dustproof plastic enclosures.

The next challenge is coding accuracy. It’s important that codes are marked clearly onto products to meet regulations. “Look for a Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) coder that incorporates a positive air feature. This helps to direct dust away from the print head and the coding surface, making sure codes are clear. This is important because the nature of baked goods usually means short shelf-lives, plus little chance to rework during production, so a clear, accurate code is essential if manufacturers are to avoid scrappage, or worse, rejects from retailers,” as the Linx experts explain.

Look for New Coding Technology

One of the biggest technological breakthroughs in coding solutions is the emergence of small, portable CIJ coders. The expert offers the example of Linx 10, a new coder proper for bakeries that does not need advanced features, but just simple coding. These compact coders allow users to code one or two lines of code onto medium line speeds with a single, universal ink for all purposes.

Compact laser coders are also available, which fit easily into packaging and labeling machinery.

“Other recent breakthroughs include user-friendly touch screen interfaces, meaning operating your coder is as easy as sending a text message on a smartphone. This means operators no longer need extensive training, and there’s a lower chance of things going wrong,” the experts say.

Take the Right Steps before Buying

Before buying a new coder, the producer has to make sure the vendor allows fully testing the equipment. Linx Printing Technologies and their distributors offer a sample marking service for their coding equipment and (beside the fact that a range of CIJ inks can be previously tested) the company can also bring a printer to the factory and conduct a thorough demonstration on the production line.

A trial period, which is the best way to see if the printer is suitable for the application, is also possible. This allows the client testing the printer’s performance in a factory environment, allowing to test out line speed, different substrates and to familiarize the client with the operation of the coder in a real-life coding environment.

Source: World Bakers


Bakery, Packaging

Improving the sanitary design of packaging machinery

April 8th, 2017
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Once upon a time, an outbreak occurred, and the game was never the same. There probably isn’t a member of the baking industry who doesn’t remember the salmonella outbreak at Peanut Corp. of America. And Bill Kehrli, vice-president, sales and marketing, Cavanna Packaging Group, will never forget: Cavanna supplied around 30 packaging lines to a major North American bakery plant that received a tainted shipment of peanut butter.

“The plant shut down and basically tore apart the entire factory trying to clean it. Our equipment was in pieces,” Mr. Kehrli recalled. It took more than a dozen technicians to reassemble the equipment, and from that moment, the idea of “clean” for Cavanna — along with nearly every food production facility and equipment manufacturer in the country — changed forever.

“We partnered with our customers and attended seminars put on by the American Meat Institute about what it means to be clean and how to build equipment that’s sanitary design,” Mr. Kehrli said. “Today, we’re preaching the ‘Gospel of Sanitary Design.’ ”

In this Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) era, sanitary design is a top priority for the baking industry. “Food safety not only affects brand awareness and the health of end users, but it also influences overall equipment effectiveness,” said Kelly Meer, product manager, Bosch Packaging Technology. “In order to achieve higher production efficiency, reduce cleaning time and prevent product contamination, it is essential for bakers to invest in a hygienically designed packaging solution.”

The meaning of clean

There’s no disputing that every facet of bakery production has to be clean. But words such as clean and sanitary, while vital pieces of a baker’s lexicon, can often mean different things to different people. To make sure that packaging equipment meets sanitary design standards for both the baker and supplier, communication is crucial, and that should start at the training level.

“The same diligence a bakery puts into training staff to make the product should go into cleaning equipment and preparing it to run the next day,” said Dennis Gunnell, vice-president, sales and marketing, Formost Fuji. “Identifying standards and understanding what ‘clean’ means is critical because ‘clean’ to one person might not mean the same thing to someone else.”

Mr. Kehrli echoed that sentiment. “Someone else’s definition of clean might not be my definition,” he said. “My definition of clean is that it’s spotless. You can swab it anywhere, and all the bacteria are killed. It goes beyond wiping something down with a damp rag or blowing with compressed air.”

Visibility is often the key to identifying a standard of clean. Remember the adage, “If you can’t see it, you can’t clean it” — the same goes for confirming that it’s clean. “We design our equipment with guides that come off quickly without tools and decks that pivot out of the way so you can see underneath,” Mr. Gunnell said. “Not only do these features make the equipment easier to clean, but it also helps an operator see it’s clean as well. For example, if you don’t allow a deck to be removed, or at least pulled out of the way, an operator might think it’s clean, when in fact, there could be bacteria growing underneath.”

For food safety purposes, Bosch designs its packaging equipment so that stationary parts are below the process belt. “This ensures that products cannot become contaminated by dust and other residue, and it prevents parts from falling down and jeopardizing products or consumer health,” Mr. Meer observed. That said, Bosch’s packaging equipment’s observation windows, transparent casings and other accessibility features allow operators to inspect or clean it at any time.

Collaborative effort

After defining clean and identifying standards, the next critical issue is mapping out a plan. “Whether it’s processing or packaging equipment, the first question I always ask is, ‘What is our reason to clean?’” said Karl Thorson, food safety and sanitation manager for Minneapolis-based General Mills. “There has to be a reason to clean, and sometimes a better way to think of it is, ‘What would happen if I didn’t clean? What’s the impact to the system, the environment, the product?’ ”

It doesn’t matter if it’s a food safety or allergen issue. When bakers understand why a piece of packaging equipment needs to be cleaned, it’s much easier to move forward with design, an area where many bakeries are becoming more involved much earlier in the process. “Once I understand the ‘why,’ I can address it by marrying up the right design with the appropriate cleaning method,” Mr. Thorson said.

Mr. Gunnell encouraged bakers to take a more active role in the design process, something he’s seen trending in the past few years. “It’s been prevalent in the frozen food and meat industries, but we are now seeing more bakers asking to see the design of the conveyor and have a conversation about how it’s being built,” he said.

Increased collaboration is also happening at BluePrint Automation, according to Alan Beehler, director of applications. “Food safety professionals are getting more and more involved in the equipment design,” he said. “Every year, food safety concerns are becoming more elevated, and more of our customers are taking their involvement a step further.”

The sooner a bakery can start a sanitary design dialogue, the better. “Bakers should think about it up front — not after the new equipment is installed — right from the first stage,” Mr. Gunnell suggested. “Always ask the question, ‘How is this going to help me not only in production but also in sanitation?’ ”

Angela McDaniel, Formost Fuji sales and marketing coordinator, agreed. “It’s important for bakers to weigh the assessment of sanitary design from the beginning,” she said. “Trying to change it after the equipment has been built is not as cost-effective as going with sanitary design from the beginning.”

Matching method to need

It goes beyond just identifying what the standards are, especially in the packaging area where it might not be so black-and-white. Depending on the product and its specific characteristics, sanitary design for packaging equipment can range from wipe down to full washdown.

“It really depends on what ‘soil’ is going to be run on that system, and what concerns go along with that,” Mr. Thorson said. “What are the anticipated issues going forward? In packaging, if you anticipate having jam-ups, unsealed liners or major spillage or contamination of the line — which is a huge risk — then maybe you’ve got to design differently and go to the extreme of wet washdown.”

For Mr. Kehrli, washdown is more than the gold standard; it’s the standard. “If you’re going to clean the primary packaging equipment, then really clean it. The only way to fully do that is get in there and hit it with hoses and the right chemicals,” he said.

Washdown is also a core capability for BluePrint Automation, and Mr. Beehler pointed out its importance, especially for systems that have exposed product entering the packaging area. “We offer full washdown capable equipment using caustic foams and sanitizing solution that is corrosion resistant,” he said. The company’s sanitary design also minimizes nooks and crannies where crumbs, inclusions and other sanitary threats might hide. “All these areas are mechanically cleanable and also visible, and the equipment is constructed in a way that caustic foams and sanitizing solutions can be applied without damaging the equipment,” he said.

But — there’s always that “but” — some operations are not conducive to washdown packaging equipment, or they simply don’t need it. Mr. Thorson always considers the food safety need, wear on the equipment and also the cost of installation. He suggested a packaging line that only experiences minor spills might not require fully washdown capable equipment. He also emphasized the importance of planning ahead. “You have to think about what kind of flexibility you want for the future,” he said. “Will you possibly be running formulas in the future that would be more challenging to clean?”

Another important consideration for washdown is the environment itself. Oftentimes, the packaging area of an existing facility is not washdown-friendly. “It’s not just the equipment that needs to be sanitary design; the building needs to withstand washdown with drains in the floor,” Mr. Kehrli observed.

In a legacy building that’s been operating for decades, installing a washdown capable piece of equipment in an area that’s not conducive to it is counter-productive, especially for neighboring equipment that isn’t designed with the same capability. “In that case, when you spray the water, and the chemicals get in the air, it’s almost like raining inside the building, and that can potentially harm the other equipment,” Mr. Kehrli said.

Burford Corp. takes this into consideration with its tyers. Although its equipment does not come in contact with product, it’s compatible with other machines that are washdown-capable. “For a wet environment, we’ve made modifications to ensure that, while our machine isn’t washdown, it can be removed so that operators can wash in that area,” said Mitch Lindsey, technical sales, Burford. “All they have to do is roll our equipment off the line so the components that are in contact with product can be washed down.”

If not opting for washdown, there are still plenty of options. “Bakers are looking for sanitary design, even if not necessarily complete washdown,” Ms. McDaniel said. “As long as equipment meets the standards for sanitation, then removal of all the parts for proper cleaning becomes most important.” Formost’s sanitary design enables its packaging equipment to transform from a full machine into bare bones for complete sanitation.

When cleaning equipment, bakers understand that time is money … and downtime costs. To shorten downtime, redundancy helps. “Maybe I’ve got a belt for one product or another, or at least a clean set that can easily follow quick changeover principles and get into the next product run as soon as possible,” Mr. Thorson said. “Then I can do a detailed spot cleaning on the framework and things like that without doing a full-flood washdown.”

Bosch offers a second format set with its format parts carriage, according to Mr. Meer, allowing one set to be cleaned while the other is in use. “In a four-leg system, four operators just need two hours to change over the format parts and clean the entire system while critical parts are cleaned out of place,” he said, explaining that this helps bakers quickly resume production without the risk of allergen residues.

The allergen issue

Allergens are hard to control. It’s an issue that transcends individual areas of processing, and packaging can’t be discounted, either. When it comes to allergens, a proactive defense is best.

“It’s not unheard of on a packaging line to take many hours to pass an allergen clean,” Mr. Kehrli said. “For example, on a flowwrapping system for bars, operators can clean all the belts. Then, they go around with a swab and touch the different areas of equipment; if they find allergens on it, they can’t start up the line.”

When running products with very different formulas, Mr. Thorson advised bakers to consider everything with packaging design, especially when running products with allergens and non-allergens. “At minimum, you need to ensure that you can clean the product zone to the visibly clean standard,” he said. “If appropriate, you can follow up with analytical allergen testing (protein specific) of the surfaces and/or product.”

In areas such as secondary packaging where sanitary design is not as crucial, some bakeries rely on layout to address the allergen issue. “What we’ve done with certain customers is wall off processing and primary packaging and then have wrapped product go through a wall into secondary and tertiary packaging,” Mr. Kehrli said. “That creates an internal room that can handle washdown and an external room that does not require it.”

In the end, sanitary design should permeate every stage of bakery operations in some way. In a post-peanut-crisis, FSMA-driven world, it’s the new normal. “This should be the standard, not the goal,” Ms. McDaniel said.



Food Safety, Packaging , ,

A little more (sustainable) packaging, please…

October 8th, 2016
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If you want to keep your donuts fresh longer, you’re going to need more packaging. This illustrates an Eco-Insights lesson about packaging and food waste.

As you are very aware, concerned people are constantly complaining about how much packaging our society generates. I’m also bombarded by media types wanting to know if packaging can help reduce food waste.

After explaining that packaging is, and probably always will be, the most effective method to reduce food waste by keeping food contained, fresh, safe, and easy to prepare & serve, I usually add a few of the following points:

  • Packaging can deliver the socially acceptable parts of meats, fruits and vegetables, with the balance used upstream for feed, fertilizer, or compost. Without this system, we’d all be throwing away more of the components we won’t eat…but other creatures can.
  • Packaging can help define, deliver and control portions. Thus, only the amount that can or should be eaten will be served and consumed, with little or nothing to throw away.
  • In the future, intelligent packaging will probably let us know that what’s inside needs to prepared and/or consumed now, while it’s still fresh. By the way, this is actually happening with meat, where gelatin in the label “decays” as the same rate as the meat in the package.

I then go on to say that many times, a little more packaging can save a whole lot of food from going to waste. I use data from INCPEN and other sources to explain that, in general, 90% of the environmental footprint comes from the product, and only 10% is due to the package. Thus, there’s a great deal of leverage on the packaging side if the goal is to reduce food waste.


The EPA’s latest data indicates that total packaging generated (not counting wooden crates and a few other rather esoteric packages) equals 66.0 million tons, and that food waste is 37.1 million tons. Let’s say that through the mechanisms mentioned above including modified-atmosphere packaging, portion control and newfangled sensors, a 10% increase in packaging by weight could lead to a 50% decrease in food waste. Here are the numbers:

By investing in 6.6 million more tons of packaging, we could theoretically reduce food waste by 18.6 million tons. In the course of doing so, the total amount of solid waste generated would fall by 12 million tons, or 4.6%.


And, the amount of food waste would fall from 14.6% of total waste generated to 7.7%. Hurray again!





Soft Robotic grippers for packaging

September 24th, 2016
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Tech start-up to exhibit their latest gripping technology in Booth 9901 – Looks to enable the snack & baking industries with packaging automation

Snack and bakery packaging automation has typically come with its own set of limitations. For example, many products have variable characteristics such as weight, size and shape – all difficult for many packaging machines to handle consistently. Many applications are delicate and require special gentle handling such as raw dough, freshly baked items such as bread rolls or bagels, enrobed chocolate and items with any sort of topping or frosting. These are sample applications where baked goods producers have traditionally found difficulty on the packaging side of their production lines – until now.


Photo Credit: Soft Robotic Inc.

With new developments by Soft Robotics, a single end-of-arm tool (EOAT) on a robotic packaging system can now handle an unprecedented range of objects without the need for tool changes or software modifications between cycles. Soft Robotics has demonstrated the ability to grasp difficult-to-handle products with variable characteristics with a single device utilizing their proprietary technology. This disruptive capability addresses unmet needs in existing markets and unlocks new markets for cost-effective automated solutions.

“We continually look for opportunities in markets where our technology can help improve line production and overall efficiencies,” says Carl Vause, Soft Robotics’ CEO. “The baking industry is certainly one of those areas where delicate products cause issues for typical packaging machines, no matter if they are mechanical or robotic. Our technology allows robotic automation to address existing packaging needs, open new markets to robotics, is cost-effective, and can even increase worker safety.”

See live demos of the Soft Robotics gripping technology at IBIE 2016, October 8-11 in Las Vegas – Booth 9901.

About Soft Robotics

Soft Robotics Inc. is commercializing a new class of robotic end-of-arm tool that can delicately and adaptively manipulate items of varying size, shape and weight. By leveraging the science of soft robotic actuators, the company is automating facilities that have traditionally depended on manual labor for material handling applications in the fresh-cut produce and consumer packaged goods industries. Learn more at



Packaging, Technology ,

USDA developing biodegradable, edible film made from casein

September 10th, 2016
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Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have developed an edible and biodegradable packaging film, which is made from the milk protein casein.

The new wrap differs from petroleum-based films, which are generally unsustainable, not biodegradable and detrimental to the environment because of the amount of plastic waste they create every year. They also offer superior performance to existing edible films, USDA said, because the packaging is much less porous and has a tighter network of microholes that is up to 500 times more effective at keeping oxygen away from food, in turn reducing spoilage.

The scientists found that early prototypes were hard to handle and would dissolve in water too easily, so they incorporated citrus pectin into the blend to make the packaging even stronger, as well as more resistant to humidity and high temperatures.

The casein-based packaging looks similar to regular plastic wrap but is less stretchy and better at blocking oxygen. Nutritious additives such as vitamins, probiotics and nutraceuticals could be included in the future, with USDA hoping that the invention will be made available in stores within the next three years.

In addition, the film is said to have little flavour, although extra flavourings could also be incorporated in the future.

But the use of the protein casein will make the edible packaging unsuitable to those with dairy intolerances.

The researchers have presented their work to the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

“The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage. When used in packaging, they could prevent food waste during distribution along the food chain,” said research leader Peggy Tomasula.

And Laetitia Bonnaillie, co-leader of the study, added: “The coatings applications for this product are endless. We are currently testing applications such as single-serve, edible food wrappers. For instance, individually wrapped cheese sticks use a large proportion of plastic – we would like to fix that.”

In addition to being used as plastic pouches and wraps, the casein coating could be sprayed onto cereal flakes or bars to help improve texture retention when milk is poured on. The spray also could line pizza or other food boxes to keep the grease from staining the packaging, or to serve as a lamination step for paper or cardboard food boxes or plastic pouches.

Bonnaillie says the group is currently creating prototype film samples for a small company in Texas, and the development has garnered interest among other companies too.

Source: FoodBev


Packaging, Research ,

U.S. GMO food labeling bill passes Senate

July 16th, 2016
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The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would for the first time require food to carry labels listing genetically-modified ingredients, which labeling supporters say could create loopholes for some U.S. crops.

The Senate voted 63-30 for the bill that would display GMO contents with words, pictures or a bar code that can be scanned with smartphones. The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) would decide which ingredients would be considered genetically modified.

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.

Drawing praise from farmers, the bill sponsored by Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas and Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan is the latest attempt to introduce a national standard that would override state laws, including Vermont’s that some say is more stringent, and comes amid growing calls from consumers for greater transparency.

“This bipartisan bill ensures that consumers and families throughout the United States will have access, for the first time ever, to information about their food through a mandatory, nationwide label for food products with GMOs,” Stabenow said in a statement.

A nationwide standard is favored by the food industry, which says state-by-state differences could inflate costs for labeling and distribution. But mandatory GMO labeling of any kind would still be seen as a loss for Big Food, which has spent millions lobbying against it.

Farmers lobbied against the Vermont law, worrying that labeling stigmatizes GMO crops and could hurt demand for food containing those ingredients, but have applauded this law.

Critics like Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, say the bill’s vague language and allowance for electronic labels for scanning could limit its scope and create confusion.

“When parents go to the store and purchase food, they have the right to know what is in the food their kids are going to be eating,” Sanders said on the floor of the Senate ahead of the vote.

He said at a news conference this week that major food manufacturers have already begun labeling products with GMO ingredients to meet the new law in his home state.

Another opponent of the bill, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, said it would institute weak federal requirements making it virtually impossible for consumers to access information about GMOs.


Food ingredients like beet sugar and soybean oil, which can be derived from genetically-engineered crops but contain next to no genetic material by the time they are processed, may not fall under the law’s definition of a bioengineered food, critics say.

GMO corn may also be excluded thanks to ambiguous language, some said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised concerns about the involvement of the USDA in a list of worries sent in a June 27 memo to the Senate Agriculture Committee.

In a letter to Stabenow last week, the USDA’s general counsel tried to quell those worries, saying it would include commercially-grown GMO corn, soybeans, sugar and canola crops.

The vast majority of corn, soybeans and sugar crops in the United States are produced from genetically-engineered seeds. The domestic sugar market has been strained by rising demand for non-GMO ingredients like cane sugar.

The United States is the world’s largest market for foods made with genetically altered ingredients. Many popular processed foods are made with soybeans, corn and other biotech crops whose genetic traits have been manipulated, often to make them resistant to insects and pesticides.

“It’s fair to say that it’s not the ideal bill, but it is certainly the bill that can pass, which is the most important right now,” said American Soybean Association’s (ASA) director of policy communications Patrick Delaney.

The association was part of the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, which lobbied for what labeling supporters termed the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or DARK Act, that would have made labeling voluntary. It was blocked by the Senate in March.

(Reporting by Chris Prentice in New York; Additional reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago, Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Kouichi Shirayanagi and Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Ed Davies)

Source: Reuters


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FDA modernizes Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods

May 28th, 2016
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The US Food and Drug Administration took a major step in making sure consumers have updated nutritional information for most packaged foods sold in the United States, that will help people make informed decisions about the foods they eat and feed their families.

“I am thrilled that the FDA has finalized a new and improved Nutrition Facts label that will be on food products nationwide,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices.”

“For more than 20 years, Americans have relied on the Nutrition Facts label as a leading source of information regarding calories, fat and other nutrients to help them understand more about the foods they eat in a day,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D. “The updated label makes improvements to this valuable resource so consumers can make more informed food choices – one of the most important steps a person can take to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.”

The new Nutrition Facts label will include the following:

  • An updated design to highlight “calories” and “servings,” two important elements in making informed food choices.
  • Requirements for serving sizes that more closely reflect the amounts of food that people currently eat. What and how much people eat and drink has changed since the last serving size requirements were published in 1993. By law, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, requires that serving sizes be based on what people actually eat.
  • Declaration of grams and a percent daily value (%DV) for “added sugars” to help consumers know how much sugar has been added to the product. It is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars, and this is consistent with the scientific evidence supporting the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • “Dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for certain multi-serving food products that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Examples include a pint of ice cream and a 3-ounce bag of chips. With dual-column labels available, people will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time.
  • For packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 ounce soda, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.
  • Updated daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D, consistent with Institute of Medicine recommendations and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed and are used to calculate the %DV that manufacturers include on the label.
  • Declaration of Vitamin D and potassium that will include the actual gram amount, in addition to the %DV. These are nutrients that some people are not getting enough of, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. The %DV for calcium and iron will continue to be required, along with the actual gram amount. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required because deficiencies of these vitamins are rare, but these nutrients can be included on a voluntary basis.
  • “Calories from Fat” will be removed because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount. “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will continue to be required.
  • An abbreviated footnote to better explain the %DV.

The FDA is also making minor changes to the Supplement Facts label found on dietary supplements to make it consistent with the Nutrition Facts label.
Most food manufacturers will be required to use the new label by July 26, 2018. Manufacturers with less than USD10m in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply with the new rules. The FDA plans to conduct outreach and education efforts on the new requirements.



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